When people denounce religion in a reductivist way as to imply that modernity should make us all transcend such baseness, it makes me fear for humanity. Those who say this are usually white people in industrialized nations, where they are so far removed from the raw human condition that dwells in the cracks of suffering like poverty like death of children like rampant spread of crippling diseases, that they’ve forgotten their insignificant place in this universe.
Religion is ingrained in the subconscious as an archetype – it’s shaped the paths we’ve crossed as a collective from time immemorial. When you look down on it, you have put yourself at the centre of the universe. You’ve erased your human limits and imperfections because modern conveniences insulates you from feeling the powerlessness this man felt.
A hallmark of all religions is that its earliest adopters were the marginalized, the poor whereas its fiercest opponents were the elite and affluent. This is because religion is the attempt to transcend the self to connect with the inexplicable motifs that visit us in dreams and feelings.
Many conflate religion with God or the God-image. Religion is a means through which the powerful mythological motifs and symbolisms are made bearable and accessible for the average individual. But it’s not God.
Just as language is an attempt at representing a phenomena or object without the words actually replacing the object — e.g. the word spoon points to something beyond itself, it’s not a spoon — so is religion. It’s of the foolishness of our age to discard ancient traditions because we think we’ve evolved past them without having the foresight or the forbearance to deal with the consequences of such drastic instability.
Like all elements of the unconscious, religion is antithetical to the ego in that it forces the self to open itself up to the greater unknown. It’s therefore a curious paradox that many who lay claim to religion haven’t had contact with that mysterious experience but rather uses it as a crutch for the ego and a way to bypass all uncertainty. When this manifests in dogma and violence, it’s not that religion causes this. It’s that the ego is refusing to capitulate to a higher order. Those who have a dualistic thinking where they divide the world into us vs. the others, are attempting to block the unconscious from rising up into the conscious mind, thereby threatening the identity invested in by the individual. So they denounce any and everything that doesn’t conform to their image because by blocking the unconscious and inexplicable within themselves, they have no choice but to live life defending against any reminiscent of the unconscious that could trigger the inner turmoil.
Those who lay claim to certainty and a moral highground – be they antitheists or fundamentalists – are those who are crippled by the fear of the uncertain and so must eradicate all signs of glitches in the matrix.
Religion is supposed to be a portal to the divine and as such can never be static or rote. It’s only supposed to give the individual tools in their quest for what’s calling their heart. But over time, the path is less and less traversed and becomes overgrown with weeds. Instead, other paths are constructed that misleads people to worshipping the egos of men. This is why different prophets and scriptures were sent; to revive the truth that lay in the depths of the souls, forgotten but never eradicated.
So long as religion is only faith and outward form and the religious function is not experienced in our souls, nothing of any importance has happened.
– C.G. Jung ( Psychology and Alchemy)
The unconscious is the only available source of religious experience. This in certainly not to say that what we call the unconscious is identical with God or is set up in his place. It is simply the medium from which religious experience seems to flow. As to what the further cause of such experience might be, the answer to this lies beyond the range of human knowledge. Knowledge of God is a transcendental problem.
– C.G. Jung, ( The Undiscovered Self)